Stickman's Weekly Column March 12th, 2017

Living The Dream In Pattaya

He came to Thailand a bit over a decade ago as a young Brit with just 30,000 baht in his pocket.  Today he owns and operates the massive Pattaya Addicts forum, the world’s largest Thailand sex tourism forum. That’s just the start.  He founded Night Wish Group which today has 15+ bars, 13 of which are on Soi 6, the most infamous soi in all of Pattaya.  What really sets him apart is that unlike so many involved in the bar industry he does not hide behind a pseudonym.  I recently sat down with the man behind it all for a candid chat about life as a businessman in Pattaya.  Let me introduce you to Bryan Flowers.

 

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Pattaya businessman, Bryan Flowers.

 

So how did you come to end up in Pattaya?

I came here after I watched the movie The Beach.  I was at university and the plan was to come here for 3 weeks and go to Koh Phangnan.

I did Khao San Road first.  The plan wasn’t to go to bars but I ended up meeting girls on the street who said they were normal girls.  I didn’t know they were freelancers and really didn’t know what was going on but soon enough I had become addicted to the nightlife.

I went down to the islands and went to some of the parties.  I stayed for a while and everyone said don’t visit Pattaya, it’s dirty, it’s full of prostitutes and it’s horrible!  They said don’t go there but I was thinking I just have to go there!  So I went.

At that point I thought I don’t need university, I am going to stay here.  I stayed for 3 months until all of my money ran out.

So when was that?

That was 12 years ago.  I was 23 years old.

So did you go back to the UK?

I stayed for 3 months and had an online business.  I was stupid at the time.  Young and stupid. I was not looking for the next business and was just taking the money from that business.  Then it stopped making money.  I decided I did not need a degree in Thailand and I did not need to stay in England.  I remember teachers moaning at me saying you just need one assignment and you will have your first year tied away and you can come back later.  I said no thanks, I am out of here!

I sold all of my stuff and moved in with my parents so I could save money and be prepared to make the move one day.

I started Pattaya Addicts.  I was given a warning on another forum and I didn’t like it.  So I thought I’d make a website that was friendly, better and we would put our faces on it and be real people.  Back then everyone was hiding behind screen names.  I put a photo online of myself and said show your face and it made a lot of people nice.  When they showed their face they became accountable.

So you started Addicts in the UK?

Yeah.  I was doing 16 hours a day on Pattaya Addicts.  I told people I didn’t want to make money from it. I just wanted to make the website big.  I stopped going to work and my Mum started complaining.  I said the website was more important.  I worked a hell of a lot on it.  I came back to Thailand two more times, one time for 5 weeks.  I had a bad time and then the third time I came for a month and I had a really good time.

Was that when you decided you wanted to be here?

I decided on the first trip that I wanted to move here but I was trying to find a path to make it happen.

Andy Fletcher wanted to be involved in Pattaya Addicts and he told me I should monetize it.  I didn’t want to but the bills were getting higher and higher.  He said I should go out to Pattaya and we could work together and he would show me how to make money from the forum.  He gave me ideas on how to monetize it.  Thanks to Andy, 10 years ago I arrived here with 30,000 baht and a website.  And he’s still a partner in the advertising today, so it’s worked out well for both of us.

And how many users does it have today?

104,000, but less than half are active.

That’s massive!  That’s second only to ThaiVisa and way bigger than any other similar site.

Everyone is shocked when they see the traffic.  I was young and the other forum owners were older, established and set in their ways.  People told me the other forums were too big and it would be impossible to compete.  I studied SEO and came up with new ideas, set myself targets, made sure there were 100 new users a day, used YouTube videos with links etc. and did all of that before Facebook started.  I often wouldn’t go to sleep until we had at least 100 new threads per day.  We were really pumping it and setting targets.  Every new registration made me excited.

So Facebook changed things?

Yes and no.  A lot of guys I know on Facebook are originally from Pattaya Addicts.  With forums, people get everything they need and then they drift away from it and continue life without it.  I created a network of people and they still meet on Facebook.

When I came to Thailand I only knew one guy and I had nobody apart from Andy to give me advice.

I went to a Tony Robbins seminar and he said to cut out all the things in your life that make you unhappy. I had grown men on Addicts crying.  A moderator couldn’t be a moderator any more and he was crying his eyes out.  I was 23 years old and I had guys crying and picking on me and trying to bully me.

So how did you deal with that?

I dunno.  I am tough and thick-skinned, but I am sensitive too.  Some people managed to get through my thick skin and make me angry.

When I arrived here I had people threatening to put Immigration on me, and had people threatening to hurt me.  They’d get banned on the forum and would say they are going to get me.

I sold the forum after the Tony Robbins thing 12 years ago and then I said to a friend in Canada I would go and work with him.  I thought I’d said goodbye to Addicts and was going to go to Canada.

After a few months the people who bought Addicts were having real problems.  It was ultimately my baby and they could not replace me.  When I am on the forum I create a lot of hype.  I am target-driven and create a lot of hype and posts and sometimes I would not go to sleep until there was over 100 active threads.  I used to get excited each time a new member signed up.  They couldn’t cope with the forum so they told me to come back in and then I ended up owning it 50 : 50 with Andy Fletcher.

When I moved here I was having real financial problems.  We couldn’t make too much money so Andy said to me you can have the forum back.  It’s all yours – you can just make money off it.  All he wanted was a percentage of the profits as long as he is around.  I said no problem.  Andy helped me financially in my early days so now I am trying to return that favour.

 

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Bryan, manager Vag and employees.

 

Pattaya Addicts is far from your only business.  What are some of the other businesses you run now?

We have got two restaurants but they are both failures, due to external forces.

I’ve got 14 bars.  Almost 15 and I am looking at the 16th.  I bought one last week and I will buy another in 3 days.

At the end of last year I pledged that I would double the number of bars we have which would be another every month and we now have another 4 already and it is only March.

It’s funny because I am buying so many new bars so fast, very few can keep track and whenever I bump in to a friend, I have to try and remember how many bars we have bought since I last saw them!

So most of the bars are on soi 6?

We have 12 bars on soi 6.  And we have some on Soi Bongkot 8 which is near Nirin Condo.

I have heard about Nirin Condo.  It sounds like the last stop on the road to hell.  Is it as bad as I hear?

It’s pretty desperate!  <He smiles>  It is the most lively condo I have ever seen.  The streets are buzzing there.  And you’ll never lose money buying there because it’s so cheap already!

What’s it like running not just one, but so many bars?  More bars equals more staff which must equal more problems, right?

No, because we layer everything.  My bars are all structured.

Tell me more.

Well, there’s me leading the businesses.  I have a business partner called Ben who does all the accounting. Then I have a general manager, Vaggalis.  Basically, I call him the boss of the business.  I want him to run the group without me being around so I can move on to other things.  I don’t go over his head and everything has to go through him.  And then there is one manager per bar.  We have two or three cover managers too.  The cover managers are on a trial period and have to do shifts here and there to prove themselves.

My role in the company is to deal with the police, landlords and push the branding.  Teach some of the stuff I learn, go to meetings and grow the business.  I don’t find any of it stressful.  I love it all.  Apart from social problems.  That’s the only thing that stresses me out.

What do you mean by social problems?

I don’t mind people talking shit about me, but if I know them in real life, it really gets to me and I am getting better at moving on.  For example, someone wrote on Facebook how I am cheating people.  I could do it but I never have.  For me it’s all about the chase.  If you’re stealing money it’s not about the chase.  Do that and you just make other people miserable.  I am completely the opposite to that.  When I messaged the guy who wrote that he turned off his Facebook account!

I hate this sort of thing.  I hate it when people say things about us which are untrue.  I don’t care if someone abuses me, calls me names or whatever.  Call me what you want, but don’t lie about me.

Most of the bitterness and jealously fuels my fire to expand and grow the business.  I need haters as well as all the guys that like me.  One thing I can say is none of the people bagging me has ever met me, otherwise they would think completely different.  I am very friendly, respectful and nice to everyone first.  I give people trust first.

You’ve had a lot of shit spoken about you.  As I have.  It happens when you’re perceived to have a good life and are happy in a country where a lot of people struggle to get by.  How do you deal with it?

What annoys me is when they talk shit about me.  9 times out of 10 it is complete rubbish. But then I see regular people commenting about what others have said about me. A few days ago there was one guy who said I have no money and another said I am doing well. Then another says I have had to sell a car to settle this bill then and another said I am selling my jet ski.  I explained on Facebook that I am getting rid of the fancy stuff and knuckling down.  I had 5 hours sleep last night because I work hard.

The other way I deal with it is that I know the haters are bitter people.  There is nothing I want from them.  I wish guys like that would just phone me and tell me that they want to make money and live here. I would happily sit down with them and tell them what they could do.

So many bar bosses tell me about the problems they have with cashiers and girls in general who always seem to be trying to find a new way to get money the wrong way.  How do you deal with this and how do you protect yourself from this now?

For one, the cashiers are responsible for the cash only.  The manager doesn’t touch it.  We trust them but they have no need to touch it.  The less people who touch the money the better.

Have you had issues with theft by staff?

We have problems like that about once a month.  We have more than 15 cashiers.  There are always new people coming in.  It’s not hard to find a cashier because they get paid good money.  They get good tips and higher salaries than most.

What sort of money can they expect to earn?

10K baht a month salary plus tips of maybe 500 baht a day and then drinks here and there.

So they could make the equivalent of about 30K baht a month.

The last 3 or 4 cashiers all tried to steal the same way.  How could they be so stupid?  It normally takes 24 – 48 hours to catch them.

So what do they do?

They don’t pay the whisky bill.  They tell the whiskey delivery guy they will pay him in a few days time. They put the receipt in the till as if it is paid.  He comes in a few days later and asks why we haven‘t paid. Part of me thinks they think they are borrowing it.  Maybe they just start off doing silly things and then it gets worse and worse.

Opportunism, eh?

Everything is computerized so it’s difficult for them to do it any other way.  The managers are around and there’s different security levels on the till so that is about the only way they can do it.

One thing we do is that they do not see how much money should be in the till until AFTER they have done the daily count.  That is very important.

That’s clever.

Before they were printing what is in the till.  Now, they don’t know until after so if there was more they could pocket the difference.  If there is less they are accountable for it.  I don’t like it but if it is not that way they would just steal.  So they have to be accountable for the money.  We always get every baht back, every single time.

We had one lady locked up for about 3 days.  We will dock their salary if we have to.  We don’t phone the police or cause other problems but we do make sure they pay up.  They always admit what they have done, every single time.

 

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With your employees dressed like that, it’s never a hard day at the office.

 

It used to be that whatever foreigners in business in Thailand touched turned to gold – at least that was how I saw it when I first arrived in 1998, even though the country was in the throes of the Asian Economic Crisis.  Thais were hurting but the tourism industry was flourishing and those foreigners in business from then through until around 2008 found their businesses booming; many millionaires – dollar millionaires – were made.  But so many foreigners in business in Thailand fail these days.  What hints would you give to those who are setting out to build their own empire?

You really need social media and interaction these days.  If you’re on social media all day and all night you’ll make money.  You have to respond to every person who makes a comment.  That way you build a community.  You really need a community following to run a business here.

Any specific hints dealing with Thais or on legalities or foreigners?

My wife does all of the legal stuff.  She is very professional and she does everything by the book.

Sometimes I trust people too much or rush in to things.  She goes slow and makes sure everything is done right.  She is like a partner and a personal assistant.

One thing that is very important.  Always have an excuse to meet people and meet the police.  Go to every meeting.  If you need to pay people, make sure you give the money directly to them.  You need to meet people, show them your family, show them that you are someone who is worth something to them and that you’re here for the long-term.  I have some very wealthy Thai people who are very nice to me because they can see how useful I am to them.  I think dealing with Thai people is like playing a game of chess.  I see a lot of people losing that game as you have to stay 3 steps ahead.

You have a Facebook presence.  What’s up with using the word “laamok” on your Pattaya Addicts profile?

Thais aren’t on the website.  It’s only farangs that are dealing with that and talking to me. When a farang says laamok they don’t say it like a Thai so the Thais don’t understand it.  I have changed my account name on Pattaya Addicts to Bryan Flowers so there is branding consistency across all the platforms.

A lot of people hide behind a screen name and few put their real name out there.  It’s not hard to understand why with a good few oddballs out there.  You break the mould in that respect.  What were the reasons for that?

That’s just the way I am.  I have this feeling inside me where I like to put my ass on the edge and get hit occasionally.  I find that being high-profile means more opportunities and more people contact me about jobs and doing business and it means more stuff is going on. Yes, I push the boundaries but I know what I am doing.  Also exposing myself means that no-one else can do it. I wouldn’t want to spend my life hiding and not benefiting from being well-known here.

Some police phone me up and ask if I have bought such and such a bar an hour after I have bought it and I am like how the hell did you know that?

I like hanging around with rich and successful people.  I like to share ideas and we can teach each other and absorb a lot.  I am currently attending more meetings to meet people with the same goals and ambitions.

Don’t you get sick of all the bullshit here, particularly in the farang community?  I say this to other long-termers and most agree, off the record that is.

I think it is about how you manage your life.  I get up and go to the gym and it’s just Thais there.  It’s simple chit chat and no problems.  I spend most of my day driving to meetings, meeting people or in the house, working online.  I have meetings most days and I am too busy to get pissed off with people.

So you’ve got a forum, bars and various other businesses.  Can you run me through your typical Pattaya daily routine?

I get up around 5:30 AM, sometimes earlier and then I go to train.  After that I am ready for my day proper to start.  I don’t have a particular routine but I usually have a list of jobs to get though and I try and chip away at that list.  My wife gets some of the jobs and we each go and do those jobs.  I meet people through the day.

The best way to describe my days is hustling for branding and personal and business branding.  I find if you walk down a path, even if you don’t know what you want you will find something at the end of that path.

I went to a court case in Bangkok not so long ago with a guy who had an appeal for drugs. People asked why I wasted my time doing that.  I said I would network with lawyers.  I would learn about the court system, find out about how it works and learn new things. That’s a good use of my day!

One thing I don’t like is that some people want money for everything and they value themselves too high. You should work your ass off, be out there, hustle, take every opportunity you can while sticking to your morals and pursuing things you like.  Stick with what you like and if you like doing business you can make money.

I don’t care about money.  I don’t need a Ferrari or a massive house.  And this is where I can accelerate faster than others because I throw all of my chips in to the business.  I have no money in the bank.  If I had money I would go and put a deposit on a house.  I tell people constantly, if you want to get by here, be keen and don’t be fancy with things.  Just have one girl every Friday.  That was what I did and that was my pleasure for my week at work.

I see a lot about people drinking too much and going out too much and I said to myself I am not going to do that so I lived in Sathahip.  I drank two or three times a week which was too much.  I have not had a drink in 3 years.

Not one?

Not a single drink for 3 years.  This makes me much more efficient.  I am up at 6 AM when everyone else has a hangover.  I have more time.  When I drank 2 or 3 times a week I would be no good the next day and would be a bad father.  If you drink you lose so many hours that you could be working.  Now that I don’t drink I don’t make bad decisions as often.  I am up early and can be cognitive and make good decisions 24/7.  Too many bar owners are too drunk to make good decisions.  I can outwork most people here while they are drinking in bars.

Then it’s back home to the wife in the evening, hopefully by about 8 and in bed by 10.

 

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Outside one of his many bars.

 

You’re married.  Does your wife ever get jealous of you hanging out in / working in / spending an inordinate amount of time in the naughty bars and on your forum etc?

Sometimes I feel I am like Tony Soprano.  I keep her away from the ladies / bars and she doesn’t get involved in that side of the business.  She does the banking, paperwork, dealing with lawyers, police, licenses etc.  She is always telling me to slow down or stop.  When people tell me to slow down or stop it just does my head in.

I always thought people should go hard from age 25 to 45 and if you get it right, you should be able to retire after that while you’re still young enough to have your health and do whatever you want.

If I stopped work I would get depressed.  I am serious.  No joke, I would get depressed.

What about returning to the UK?

I went back to England for 2 weeks and I just wanted to get back to Thailand.  I ended up paying 45,000 baht to change my flights.  I hated England so much because I had nothing there and could not make progress.

So your future is in Thailand?

I just remortgaged the house so I could get another bar.  People think I am crazy.  I tell people I have got 3 or 4 new bars lined up.  They tell me to slow down.  I ask why.  I have a vision.  For me, buying new bars we know what we are doing.  We have systems in place and we have everything set up already.  I’d like to do a nightclub but that is a big project and it’s something I am not 100% sure about so I am not going to make a crazy move.

You have quite a forthright style on social media and in articles you write you can be quite dismissive of views that you don’t share yourself.  Even before meeting you, you come across as someone not lacking in confidence.

A lot of bar owners have a bad image.  Think someone in a Beer Chang vest who gets drunk and beats his wife every night.  I have tried to distance myself from that image.  This is what annoys me about people who don’t know me.

In Bangkok we have a fellow who refers to himself as the King Of The Nightlife.  There’s an argument that you are the Pattaya equivalent.  You don’t have as many bars but you have the biggest Thailand sex tourism forum on the planet.  What’s your end game? You must have made more than enough money to retire already…so where is this all going?

I don’t label myself as anything.  Others can label me.  There’s a running joke that we are pimps and the soi 6 mafia.  Even some of the police call me the Soi 6 mafia.  A lot of haters say we do illegal stuff and sell drugs.  They have never meet me.  When we opened Night Wish, neighbouring bars said we were selling drugs because we were so busy so fast.  It was because we had Pattaya Addicts which was the perfect platform to launch that bar.

So Tony Kenway, the Brit gunned down by a Brit and a South African in Pattaya several weeks ago, has been accused of being British mafia.  In the last few weeks, a lot of Bangkok guys are saying that there are two mafias in Pattaya, the Russian mafia and the British mafia.  Are there mafia interests in Pattaya?

Yeah, but they are not farang.  You’ll get a few guys here and there who are loose cannons but there is no real structure.  Guys like Tony do their thing.  They are not going around demanding money off people or doing their thing in Pattaya. They do their stuff externally.  If they are doing illegal stuff they are labeled as mafia.  In my mind people who go around and harass people for money are mafia.  In theory, a bar owner is mafia because he is paying police so he can do illegal things.  That’s the definition of mafia to me. In reality these are just guys doing things to make money here.  If I go to England and say I am a back street brothel owner in Thailand, people think you’re the lowest of the low. Here you get good status for it!

You can buy a bar here any time in Thailand – at any time there are many for sale.  It took so much time and sweat to start Pattaya Addicts and getting it going.  People pat you on the back for being a bar owner. Compared to a forum it is so easy to do.  But for the forum it is so much harder.  You cannot easily buy a successful website.  Not mine, I will not sell it.

OK, so I am guessing the Pattaya Addicts site is worth in the region of 20 – 25 million baht or say around half a million quid.  I reckon I’d be pretty close being on the money with that, although the nature of what it is about that might be on the high side.  Would you sell it for that?

No. <Big smile, very sure of himself>

I could make more than that long-term.  If someone offered me 140 million baht for it I would take it but no-one in their right mind would do that!

What of the future?  I truly believe that we all burn out on Thailand.  <He looks at me like I am totally and utterly mad.>  Seriously, we do!  I did.  Howard Miller did.  Many before us have.  What about you?  Back to Blighty one day?!  When do you plan on retiring?

We have a nightlife magazine which will be out in mid-April, a full-sized magazine called Nutz Asia.  It will look as good as FHM.  It will be available in Pattaya initially and then Bangkok and we will target other countries later on.  I have got different business partners for that.  We are all on the same page and have the same dreams.  I want to get it in to 7 Eleven and get it big.

Next I plan to start a completely new website because that will be more traffic.  I will bring a friend from the UK to work with me on that.  I’ll use that reach and traffic to open new opportunities to sell property and promote other services.

The only other thing business-wise is that I want to get a new bar every month.  Like I said earlier, I don’t care about money too much and I wish to keep putting it back in to the business.  Some like to keep money for fancy things.  I don’t.

All of this uncertainty about the bars is good for me as it puts other people off from buying bars. Obviously the market decides the price but a lot of people overspend on the business and they keep overspending and then the business goes bust.  You just need to get the lease right, get some help with lawyers and do everything by the book and then try and control the spending and don’t come up with crazy ideas and huge advertising campaigns.

There’s little things like answering people’s messages, meeting them, shaking their hand.  All of that attracts customers.  People like interaction.  Some people just broadcast but don’t interact with people.  I have a lot of people come to see and they want to talk to me about stuff, they want to move here, they have a business idea, they have problems, they want a job etc.

If you want to live here long-term you have to worry about your reputation.  You have to be honest. People who steal money here have a short lifespan here.  Whether it be suicide, murder, deterioration from stress.  Three people ripped me off and now they are all dead. This is what happens to people in Pattaya.

No way would I go back to the UK.  I would rather kill myself.  I would rather gouge my eyes out!

Really?  I like the UK, apart from the weather.

It’s just not for me.  I am a nobody there.  I would be an electrician.  That is what I do by trade.  I could earn a limited amount of money.

So you like being a “someone”?

I like playing Monopoly, and I want to play this game a bit longer.  <Big smile>

You seem to have clear plans for the future.  What about in the long-term?

I am in the process of getting Thai citizenship.  It’s a hassle, not really difficult as such but a hassle.  One of my friends has been through it and I have a list of people who can help me, things not to do and things to do.

Good luck!

Bryan’s website is BryanFlowersPattaya.com

And his Facebook page

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Where Was This Photo Taken?

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Last week’s photo was taken of a small sidewalk street vendor operation on Sukhumvit soi 22, opposite the wonderful No Idea.  This week’s photo is tricky – it was taken outside of Thailand, but I am confident that a good few readers will get it right, such is the brilliance of the Stickman community.  Many thanks to reader Paul who kindly sent this photo in and offered it up as a novel mystery photo.

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FROM STICK’S INBOX  (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.)

Why she makes the rules.

Fxxx love, I’ve got food – the statement from this week’s column reminds me of a time 4 years ago on the skytrain.  It was near the stop that accesses the airport line, about 9 PM.  I saw a woman wearing a T-shirt-like dress, one-piece, with the slogan, “I’ve got the pussy, I make the rules“.  The writing was in large letters in several lines all the way down the shirt.  I still laugh every time I think about it.  I wish I had a photo!

Girl of the week.

What a choice for girl of the week!  Not a fan of that look at all.  I wish you could pop off her head and Photoshop another head on to that lovely body.  That red hair looks hideous to me.  I imagine she was much nicer in person but from the unnatural hair, to the vampire-like eyes to the metal braces, I can never understand how a Thai woman thinks that’s an improvement over what her genetics gave her.  Unbelievable.

Pattaya short-time room crackdown.

Pattaya’s numbskull soi 6 “crackdown” (nixing use of short-time rooms, thus forcing punters to take their dates somewhere else) isn’t even a Pyrrhic victory.  Have they affected the profession in Pattaya? Of course not.  It’s more reminiscent of recent immigration “crackdowns” in the USA, where people who look Indian or Middle Eastern are arbitrarily detained or turned away.  The main difference is that at some point Pattaya’s wrong-headed policy will likely disappear – meanwhile, the dainty nymphettes of Soi 6 call out in vain to a dwindling supply of would-be mongers in search of a quick “bite.”

Paper-cup served brews.

It’s not a public holiday but I’m still drinking an afternoon pint at The Game out of a paper cup. Apparently the fun police have been around to say no alcohol is to be consumed in the open air parts of the bar outside the allowed liquor sales times i.e. the times when the beer fridge is locked at 7 Eleven stores.  I work around here and consider this bar a bit of a barometer of the high season.  Up to the end of last week it seemed really busy.  Today, dead.  The mind boggles at some of this random enforcement.

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Cheap Chinese love Thailand.

Those Chinese who visit Thailand are doing it on the cheap.  They come on all-inclusive trips, spend every day on a coach visiting various tourist hot spots etc.  They are the Chinese version of Europeans who go to Benidorm on a package holiday, because it is cheap for them as they are not rich.  These people are not used to travelling abroad and have no idea how to conduct themselves outside their own culture.  On the other hand, the Chinese going to Dubai must have money since it is obviously more expensive.  One can assume them to be more “hi-so” and probably better travelled and better aware of how to conduct themselves outside their own community.  This phenomena is also true of others who have suddenly got the freedom and the money to travel abroad i.e. they have never had to conduct themselves outside their own communities and fail to observe local customs, traditions etc, thereby being rude and upsetting locals along with offending travellers from other countries who have more experience of different cultures.  Look at the behaviour of the Eastern Bloc countries’ populations when they started travelling.

Immigration experience.

When I came through Immigration with my marriage visa, the officer looked through every page of my passport, asked me where I was going, and when I said Kalasin he demanded to know which amphur. I told him and added, “like I wrote on the form!”  Then he asked me if I was married to a Thai before tossing the passport back to me.  In China they have buttons by the Immigration desk you can push to express degrees of satisfaction.  I can understand why Thailand hasn’t got the same.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

I was married to a Thai woman for 12 years in a foreign country.  One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t stash away some money.  I didn’t figure out she was stashing money away until after we were divorced.  She was working and contributing towards the house, but she was also saving money on the side.  Can you imagine how much money she stashed after 12 years?  Of course in the divorce she got more $$!  I would advise all males married to a Thai to start stashing $$, because she probably is.

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Girl Of The Week

Kate, escort with BangkokDreamsGirlEscort.com
Also available through Smooci

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The foot eased off the accelerator further this past week as visitor numbers dropped a tad around the popular farang bar areas on Sukhumvit.

Bar bosses deserve a bit of time when taking over a bar to get things up to speed which is one reason I think it is unfair to review a bar in its first or second week.  It has been a few months since Bacarra and co. took over Suzy Wong.  I hate to say that the new Suzy Wong is not to my taste.  For starters, either earmuffs mightn’t be a bad idea or someone needs to get the DJ to turn the volume knob a long way left. But that is not the problem and neither are the 190 baht drinks – although that is just too steep, in my opinion.  The real problem is on stage where it’s hard to imagine a more bored-looking and seemingly disinterested bunch of dancers (and dancers hardly seems like an appropriate word because few dance and some barely even bother to shuffle).  Watching the Suzy Wong gogo dancers is like watching a YouTube video – there is no eye contact and zero expectation that any of the ladies will so much as smile at you and you feel you’re not even in the same room.  I wish the bar luck.

Cactus in Soi Cowboy was just as well-known as an old-style gogo bar as it was for former American owner John’s fine cooking.  The word is that John will open a restaurant on Sukhumvit and given the reputation he has for fine American home-style cooking, it will be worth looking forward to.  One rumour has it that he will set up on Sukhumvit soi 31, but that remains unconfirmed.

Once upon a time many of the girls working on Soi Cowboy used to live upstairs and some bars used to have quite the contingent with dozens sleeping on the premises, sharing a cramped space together. Amongst the bars where girls live today are Tilac which allows new arrivals to stay above the bar until they have saved enough money to get a room of their own.  Across the soi, Cactus makes space available for girls who prefer to stay close to their workplace and Long Gun still has quite a contingent living on the premises too.

Speaking of Cactus, I am told that the current line-up does not feature a single tattoo.  Whether that is by design or by chance, I do not know.

Why do so many bars in Nana Plaza start the night with the classic ’80s song, The Final Countdown by Europe?  Did one bar boss start the trend and a bunch of others follow or did many come up with the idea all on their own?

This coming Friday is St Paddy’s Day so expect Irish-themed celebrations across town.

When you buy a pint of Guinness at Stumble Inn in Soi Nana on Saint Patrick’s Day, you will get a FREE helping of Irish Stew from 7 PM until it’s all gone.  If you have a Bangkok Funcard you will save 25% off every pint of Guinness.  The Bangkok Funcard costs just 200 baht from Stumble Inn and it is valid for, umm, err, life.

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If you like music from the ’80s and glam rock, the consistently popular Mandarin on the middle floor in Nana Plaza might take your fancy.

A reader has mentioned a special at the popular hostess bar Cosmos Club in Patpong Soi 2 where 2 bottles of Grants 8-year-old whisky runs just 1,500 baht – a bargain given that mixers are included.  Apparently, the special has been in place for a week or two.  I am told that Grants goes for 950 baht a bottle in local supermarkets which would make this a great deal if Grants is to your liking.

The cheapest beers in a Patpong gogo bar can be found in Thigh bar on Patpong soi 2 where those on a tight budget can get draft beer at just 60 baht, and a number of local beers run just 100 baht all night long.

You wouldn’t say that the green light has been given for Pattaya soi 6 bars to allow customers to use the short-time rooms, but rather that officials are looking the other way. After the rooms were out of commission last week, it’s business as usual this week.  With that said, a mate who invited one of the ladies in a soi 6 bar to go upstairs with him was asked if he was a cop.  The soi 6 maidens remain cautious, especially of those who aren’t regulars.

The Immigration Department has erected signs in the arrivals hall at Suwannaphum so when queuing at Passport Control there is an estimate of how long the wait will be.

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A new men’s clinic is due to open on Soi Thonglor tomorrow, He Clinic For Him.  It’s a farang-owned venture with various services offered specifically for men including treatment for ED issues, hair loss, testosterone replacement, loss of libido etc.  But what the clinic hopes to become known for is penis enlargement.  Using techniques pioneered by French plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Diacakis, the marketing officer described it to me as a 30% increase in size in 30 minutes.  The procedure sees a solution injected in to your flaccid member which increases its girth and the effect lasts for 12 – 18 months.  The cost is 150K baht.  Those behind the clinic believe there will be much demand.

Many expats are stuck in Thailand and their financial situation doesn‘t allow them to return to the West. There are also those who no longer enjoy living in Thailand, who would like to go somewhere else and do have the money to make the move – but they just don’t know where to go.  Thailand expats have traditionally looked at neighbouring countries but I get the impression that many are more aware that the issues they face in Thailand are little different in the likes of the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. Southern Europe and South America are often mentioned with Portugal and Argentina near the top of the list.  But again, deep down I think that those with itchy feet know that a new country means another set of visa rules, a new language to learn and no doubt a whole new set of issues to deal with.  As we get older, I think the desire to uplift our life and relocate diminishes.  So despite the fact that many have the means to move on from Thailand and some really do want out, the fact that they cannot find an alternative that they are confident will be an improvement means they find themselves back at square one….and stay put.

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A small non-descript restaurant on lively Soi Rangnam – just south of Victory Monument -soared to fame some 15+ years ago when the Bangkok Post’s legendary Night Owl columnist Bernard Trink raved about its hamburger and, if my memory serves me right, declared it the best burger in all of Bangkok. Tida Isarn leapt on that and a banner went up outside.  An Isaan food outlet, it offered the usual farang favourites too.  I stopped by a couple of times many years ago based on Trink’s comments.  It was ok.  Tida Isarn developed quite a following – I imagine more so with those in the neighbourhood as I am not sure the burgers were worth crossing town for but it did have something of a following amongst the expat populace back in the day.  I am told that the eatery which Bernard Trink put on the map recently closed its doors for the last time.

Following on from last week’s comments about how Immigration officers are asking more travellers about their travel plans, particularly those with a bunch of back to back visits to Thailand, it pays to know what the actual rules are regarding entry requirements and grounds for refusal when entering Thailand.  While the enforcement of the rules may be stricter these days, the actual rules have not changed and have been on the books for a long time.  You’re supposed to have proof of onward travel within the period of the time you will be permitted to stay – so if you arrive without a visa and qualify for a 30-day visa waiver, you need proof of travel outside the country within that period.  Next, you need proof of lodging such as a hotel booking.  And finally you need proof of sufficient funds to finance your stay which is a rather light 10,000 baht if you qualify for visa exempt entry or 20,000 baht if you have a tourist visa.  Those denied entry are usually unable to meet some or all of the criteria.  It all appears to be random so hope that the Immigration officer who processes you is not having a bad day!

And still on the topic of immigration and visa matters, one business owner faced a bizarre requirement when applying to extend his visa on the grounds that they work here.  He was told that he had to provide photos that feature the visa applicant, at least four of his staff and – the crazy part – the lawyer who is handling the documents and submitting the paperwork!

 

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The Phnom Penh charity toy run was a great success.

 

From across the border in Cambodia come a few updates.  First, an update on the Phnom Penh charity Toy Run promoted in this column back in January.  It was fairly successful and about $US 1,100 was raised to buy furniture, food, and various other items.

In other news, Street 130 – referred to now in town as The Block – is being developed as something of a high-end hostess bar area – but with similar pricing to the longer running bars on Street 136.  To be fair, some bars on 136 are getting a facelift too.

Progress is still slow at the Phnom Penh branch of the American wings and boobs beers bar, Hooters.  They finally have the windows in but no-one thinks it will open for a good few months yet.

On top of the recently opened Dragonfly bar (next to Honey Pot), a new bar, Sensations, has opened in what was once a hotel.  After an extensive renovation the new bar features a slate pool table (a rarity in Cambodia) in a separate parlour room.  The doors have opened and the official grand opening party is scheduled for next Saturday, March 18 which will be celebrated with a free BBQ.  The same group is planning on building and expanding a couple of other bars on the same side of the street.  The hope is to eventually make Street 130 as well-known as Street 136, albeit a little more upscale – but without the sort of premium prices you expect in more upmarket venues.

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Quote of the week comes from a mate in Cambodia planning a get-away to Bangkok, “I think I am the only person in the world who goes to Thailand to cut down on my drinking and take a break from shagging!

Reader’s story of the week is another sad tale of woe from a foreigner who married the wrong Thai woman, “Paying For It“.

A New York Times article looks at a family’s medical holiday to Thailand.

The classic, beautiful, Thai-style Dusit Thani Hotel is to get the wrecking ball in 2018.

A watch seller detains a Ruskie who pockets a timepiece from his store without paying for it.

Great fear is held for the young Russian female missing on Ko Tao.

There are fears for the safety of yet another young Westerner who has gone missing in Thailand.

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Ask Sunbelt Legal

Sunbelt Legal Advisors is here to answer any legal questions you have related to Thailand.  Drop me an email and I will forward your questions to Sunbelt Legal and run their response in the next column.

 

Question 1:  In November, 2014, a condominium unit was transferred to a new owner.  The usual declarations were made by the Juristic Person of the condominium that there were no debts associated with the room and the declaration was accepted by the Land Office and shown on the transfer papers. About the same time a management company was appointed to run the condominium.  Shortly after the room was transferred in 2014, the Juristic Person and an office worker were dismissed after money was found to be missing. These people were ordered by a Thai court to repay the money in instalments, but I understand that they have defaulted on the payments.  In January, 2015, I signed a lease on the room. The lease does not specify who is responsible for paying the common fee.  I then started receiving debit notes to the effect that I owed the common fee that was due from 2012 – 2013.  The total demand, with interest, is now some 20,000 baht.  I have made representations to the management company and the committee, but the debit notes continue to be issued in my name.  The office manager has told me that ‘it is their accounting system and when the ‘borrowed’ money is repaid the debt will be cancelled’.

Please could Sunbelt Asia tell me who is legally responsible for payment of the 2012 – 2013 common fee under these circumstances.  If I am not responsible for the debt, what can I do to stop the debit notes being issued in my name?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors responds:  The tenant is usually not responsible for common fees that were incurred prior to the lease agreement.  The common fees would normally be owed by the owner, but you would need to check your current lease agreement and check with the new owner as to his contract with the previous owner.  Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can review these documents for you and write a letter for the condo juristic person informing them to remove the debt notices.

 

Question 2:  If divorcing (consensual, both parties agree), but Thai lady continually no-shows on agreed-upon meeting to go to Amphur (District Office), do I need to go to a District Office myself and file something to get the ball rolling and cover my ass?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors responds:  It is not possible to get a divorce at the District Office if the Thai spouse will not sign the agreement.  In this case you would need to go to the court and file for divorce citing one of the 10 reasons outlined by law as reasons to file for divorce.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can assist you in filing for divorce in Thailand with the courts and ensure that you remain protected during the divorce proceedings.

 

 

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Kate, this week’s girl of the week.

 

I hope this week’s girl of the week is more to most readers’ taste than last week’s.  The red-headed lady last week caused a good few readers to express surprise at the choice of lady featured.  Unfortunately, the most attractive ladies are often amongst those who prefer not to be photographed.  I am not going to take one reader’s suggestion and rename that section of the column to Girl Of The Weak!

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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